Rising Sea Levels are Changing Florida’s Gulf Coast

The natural landscape and indigenous species inhabiting the islands near Florida’s Gulf Coast are being threatened by rising sea levels due to a rapidly changing climate.

| September 2015

  • Rising sea level
    The beautiful islands in the northern Gulf Coast of Florida are rapidly changing as rising sea levels threaten biodiversity.
    Photo by Fotolia/12ee12
  • Coming to Pass
    "Coming to Pass" tells the story of a little-developed necklace of northern Gulf Coast islands. Both a field guide to a beloved and impermanent Florida landscape and a call for its protection, Susan Cerulean's memoir chronicles the uniquely beautiful coast as it once was, as it is now, and as it may be as the sea level rises.
    Cover courtesy the University of Georgia Press

  • Rising sea level
  • Coming to Pass

Since her childhood, Susan Cerulean has explored the natural wildlife and terrain of Florida’s northern Gulf Coast islands. In her book Coming to Pass (University of George Press, 2015); she contrasts her experiences as a youth to the rapidly changing environment of these islands today. She points to rising sea levels caused by anthropogenic global warming and calls for more human responsibility in protecting the world that holds us. This excerpt, which discusses a microcosm of this phenomenon on St. Vincent Island, is from the Introduction, “The Passing of a Palm Cathedral.”

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

Cabbage top is a crescent of sand, thin as the smile of a three-day moon. Like every bit of Florida’s coastline, it is sinking into the sea. 



This floating cathedral of palm trees tethered to St. Vincent Island’s furthest flank is a singular orienting feature in Apalachicola Bay. But when winter fogs zipper the horizons up tight, you can’t see Cabbage Top at all. You lose even the cardinal directions until the sun burns back through. 

Of all St. Vincent Island’s wild geographies, Cabbage Top— labeled on older maps as Paradise Point—had seemed the most impossible to reach, on foot or by boat. I often thought about it as I explored other parts of the island, wondering what it might look like and how I might approach it. I imagined a deeply shaded hammock, refuge of red wolf and sambar deer.



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